The Observer (Kampala)

13 November 2012

Uganda: At Ludigo's, Youth See Brighter Future in Art

Two white women and a man saunter in Ludigo creations art workshop in Nalubega Complex on Kampala road.

Holding each other's hand, they veer their heads up and down and take a closer look at the art pieces hanging on the wall. "It's beautiful! Oh my God," they murmur.

To many, like these foreigners, Ludigo creations art workshop has become a place for admiration. Yet to Andrew Ludigo, the founder of Ludigo creations, a company running the workshop, this is a platform for enthusiastic youth with great ambitions to learn and grow into professional artists.

Inside the workshop, a host of youth design different images on pieces of paper. Many of them work on part-time basis, but are also being groomed into professional artists.

During his school days at Makerere University a couple of years back, Ludigo made the choice of becoming self-employed. "My idea was to leave campus and be self-employed," he says. "I had the skill and I thought nothing would stop me."

After completing his degree in 2007, Ludigo realised that life was not as simple as he had envisaged; he sought solace at Watoto church, Kampala branch, where he was employed as a tour guide for the church's foreign visitors. He earned Shs 400,000 a month.

Ludigo started investing the money in art materials like a framing gear, as he prepared to set up shop. In his free time, he would draw pictures. In 2010, he resigned at Watoto church and embarked on Ludigo creations. As they say, the rest is history.

Ludigo is one such person who believes that while it's important to think big, it's more important to start small. "I didn't have a lot of money, but I had my talent. So, I decided to resign from Watoto and start my own work. I have never looked back."

At Ludigo's, you find portraits, wall hangings, fibre mosaics, among other art pieces. The pictures display the beauty of nature showing streams of water sources, unique animals, past heads of state (Uganda), and cows herding, among others.

Their prices depend on what one would like to buy; customer-tailored art pieces fetch a higher price. Prices range from as low as Shs 30,000 to Shs 1.5m for the bigger fibre mosaic art piece. Ludigo runs the art workshop with a couple of friends: Collin Masiga, Samuel Musinguzi, and Regan Mukuye. They are all below 30.

"These friends are the greatest asset I have for this business. They sacrifice time, resources and offer advice. None of us has received a direct pay from the business. We reinvest most of the profits plus paying rent for Shs 500,000."

Ludigo, 30, markets his products through social networks, Facebook and Twitter, among other forums. He also participates in art and entrepreneurship exhibitions.

"Through all these channels, people get to know us. Some make bookings and others take our contacts and they call us later," he said.

It's not easy though, says Ludigo. "The market remains challenging. Ugandans have not fully appreciated art. Many think it's a waste of money to buy a piece of art."

He also adds that demonstrations scare away customers from the city centre.

Employment:

At least 15 people earn a living from the company. "We have part-time workers; they come here, draw art pieces and go," Ludigo says, "There are also professional artists who display their work here. Besides, we are in the process of recruiting artists," says Ludigo.

Ludigo hopes to turn the workshop into a foundation art structure, where they would recruit artists and the company, Ludigo creations, manages them. The recruits will be given working materials like computers, paint, pencils and other necessities. The plan is to offer a beginning for budding artists who want to later venture out on their own.

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